What IT certifications should I get first

Is CompTIA A+ Good for Beginners in IT?

If you’re interested in finding a job or beginning a new career in IT, you’ve probably heard a lot about certifications. They can be an efficient way to acquire credentials that will help you gain credibility as someone new to the field.

With so many different IT certifications out there, however, it is natural to ask, “Which IT certifications should I get first?” For most people, the CompTIA A+ is a great place to start. Below, we’ll explain why and also detail how you can get your certification.


What are certifications? Are they really worth it?

A certification is a credential designed to demonstrate that you have knowledge and skills in a specific area. 

To see what makes them unique, it’s helpful to contrast them with a college degree. If someone has a degree in information technology, for instance, that doesn’t necessarily tell us much about what they know. Maybe they were a terrible student; maybe the course materials they used were ten years out of date. 

A certification, on the other hand, is designed to assess actual knowledge and ability in the areas that are needed for today’s jobs. They are highly targeted and up to date.

That’s why they have become increasingly important in the tech industry, a field that is constantly changing with the emergence of new technology. Seventy-two percent of hiring managers say they are more likely to hire a candidate with a certification, up from just 47% in 2018.

Having a certification, then, makes you more attractive to employers. They can be confident you have the skills they need for the position they are trying to fill.

This is reflected in earnings. The Labor Market Information Institute calculates that those having a certification in computer-related occupations earn on average $7,600 more a year than those who don’t. Some positions even require particular certifications to be considered for the job.

It’s clear, then, that certifications are a significant asset if you want to get started in IT. Which certification should you pursue?


Which IT Certifications Should I Get First?

It can be tempting to just do a Google search for the highest paying certifications and dive in. If you do that, however, you’ll discover that the most lucrative certifications are designed to assess highly-specialized skills for experienced professionals in the industry. In other words, they aren’t for beginners. 

If you are a beginner, it makes sense to start at the beginning. That means looking for a certification that covers the foundational areas of IT that can both demonstrate your broad competence and serve as a building block for future certifications. In order to maximize the benefits you get from it, you’ll also want a certification that is widely recognized and respected.

CompTIA is one of the best-known names in certification and has created a portfolio of certifications that cover different areas and stages of a career in tech. They have two certifications that match the description above: they are broad and widely respected in the industry. They are the IT Fundamentals+ and the CompTIA A+.

The IT Fundamentals+ is really geared toward those who are brand new to the field and have little personal experience with computing. CompTIA describes it as “an introduction to basic IT knowledge and skills.” It includes things like learning basic terminology and how to install common PC peripherals.

If you are pursuing a career in IT, this certification will probably be too basic for you. An experienced user will already know most of what is covered. Moreover, it isn’t likely to help you much on the job market since employers are looking for candidates that are further along.

The CompTIA A+ is a different story. It assesses more advanced knowledge and skills in the core areas of IT and frequently shows up in job listings for entry-level positions in tech support. It is an ideal place to begin.

Keep reading to find out what the certification covers, the jobs it helps qualify you for, and the career paths you can take from this starting point.


Where can the CompTIA A+ Certification Take You?

As we noted above, the CompTIA A+ covers all the foundational areas of IT important in today’s tech environment. These include:

  • Hardware

  • Networking

  • Mobile devices

  • Operating systems

  • Virtualization & cloud computing

  • Security

  • Troubleshooting

If you are able to pass the exam, this means you are equipped for entry-level positions in IT support services. This would include job titles like IT Technician and Help Desk Technician

Those filling these kinds of roles are responsible for tasks like configuring hardware, installing and updating software, maintaining an organization’s networking systems, training end users, and troubleshooting problems. 

Some of these positions are mostly outward-facing, meaning you’ll spend your time helping a company’s customers solve IT-related problems. Others are mostly inward-facing and involve supporting an organization’s employees in their use of computing resources.

After you get some experience in an entry-level position, what’s next? There are two broad options available to you at that point. One is to move towards a higher-level position within IT support. An IT Support Manager, for instance, would oversee a team of support personnel in a larger organization. 

Another option is to pursue further training and certification in some more focused area within IT like security or cloud computing. One way to do this is with CompTIA’s career pathways, which are clusters of accreditations designed to build on one another to establish advanced expertise.

The A+ certification, then, is a great place to begin that leaves your options for future advancement wide open. How do you go about getting certified?


How to Get CompTIA A+ Certified

In order to get the certification, you’ll need to successfully pass the exam. Its two parts consist of questions designed to test your knowledge and performance-based assessments to make sure you can put your knowledge into practice. You can take the exam online or at a testing center. 

After you have passed the exam, your A+ certification will let potential employers know you have the skills and knowledge required for entry-level jobs like those described above. It will also let you know you have what it takes to succeed in your new career. 

But this leads to the question: how can you get ready to do well on the examination? There is a lot you will need to know and many tasks you’ll need to be able to accomplish over a broad range of topics. You need both knowledge and practical experience.

There are several ways you can acquire them:

Informal experience: This includes things like working on your own computer at home or taking on IT-related tasks at work.

College degree: A four-year degree in computer science or information technology can teach you what you need to know. Some programs will incorporate taking certification exams like the A+.

Independent learning: There are lots of resources online that you can use to build your knowledge in the basic areas of IT.

Training program: You can find specialized training that is focused on preparation for this particular certification.

Obviously, these approaches are pretty diverse and each has its pros and cons. Which route is best will depend upon your goals, interests, and probably your budget.


Get Prepared for Certification with CompTIA Tech

A training program, however, offers some distinct advantages. Unlike a college degree, you can complete it quickly and you’ll also spend dramatically less money. In contrast to informal experience or independent learning, you’ll get focused, guided instruction that ensures you are thoroughly covering everything you’ll need to know for the CompTIA A+ certification exam. 

Not all training programs are created equal, however. CompTIA Tech Career Academy’s online training program not only prepares you for the exam with real-time instruction by expert faculty but provides robust support to help ensure your career success. 

Your instructors will help you develop the soft skills, like communication, that employers are also looking for. Our career services will get you ready for the job market and even help connect you to potential employers.   

Want to find out more? Have a look at the IT-Ready Technical Support program overview. 

Whichever route you choose to get ready for the exam, if you’re a beginner in IT, the CompTIA A+ certification is a smart choice. It will give you the foundation you need to get your first position and set you up for long-term success.


Ready to start your CompTIA Tech Career Academy Journey? We'll guide you through the application process
Background Image: